New benefit program finds relief for student loan repayment

Paying off student loans can feel overwhelming, but the light at the end of the tunnel could be getting a little brighter for Iowa State employees. A new benefit option can help employees navigate complex federal and state programs to lower their student loan payments and potentially get some of the debt forgiven.

Savi, a service offered by TIAA that launched at ISU June 1, sorts through more than 150 state and federal assistance options to propose personalized repayment and forgiveness plans based on income, family size, debt amount and employment history. The suggestions can bring significant relief, with users averaging projected savings of about $157 per month in 2019, according to Savi.

At the free "DIY" level, employees receive links to the forms needed to apply for the recommended programs and take it from there themselves. At the "essential services" level, which costs $60 per year, Savi acts as a student loan repayment concierge, processing all the application forms, employer verification and annual recertifications. Essential services clients also receive ongoing monitoring and one-on-one customer support from student loan experts.

Navigating intricacies 

The federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is one of the most common forgiveness options Savi recommends. PSLF forgives the remaining loan balance of a qualifying government and nonprofit employee who makes 10 years of income-based payments on a federal Direct Loan. At the essential services level, Savi can help borrowers satisfy the intricate PSLF rules that have caused more than 97% of forgiveness applications to be rejected since borrowers first started to be eligible in 2017.

The complexity of complying with PSLF has been a long-standing complaint, and university human resources (UHR) gets occasional requests for assistance with the program, said Ed Holland, UHR benefits director. Savi can help employees establish a PSLF-qualifying repayment plan or review existing plans to ensure they're on track and potentially lower the payments. Offering Savi also raises awareness for the forgiveness program, Holland said. 

"We know there are many employees who have no idea they're eligible," he said.

How to get started

Employees can sign up for Savi online any time and don't need to be a TIAA client. For a commitment-free assessment, employees need to supply their social security number, the first page of their most recent tax return and login information for any loan servicing companies they are using.

For more information, join a Zoom webinar on June 15 (1 p.m.) or June 24 (11 a.m.).